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THE ALLURE OF HISTORICAL HAUTE COUTURE 


Exploring the Interplay of Fashion and Beauty in Maison Margiela’s Viral Spring Collection


words by NINA DAGAEV




Show Images Courtesy of Women’s Wear Daily / Maison Margiela Couture Spring 2024


“The ritual of dressing is a composition of the self. With the body as our canvas, we build an exterior expressive of the interior: a form of emotion.” -Maison Margiela Spring 2024 Haute Couture Collection



There is a symbiotic relationship between fashion and makeup; It is hard to associate one without the other. They come together to paint a picture, to create looks that immerse viewers in a new world. A look's outcome is dependent on its styling because of its important role in setting the context. It’s a means of expressing emotions the designer wants to convey; the body is a blank canvas, taking shape through how the makeup is applied and the clothes are designed.

The Maison Margiela Artisanal Collection 2024 showcases the interconnection between fashion and makeup, combined with performance that immerses viewers in a distant past. This show not only portrays the emotional state and expectations of the individuals experiencing life during 1930s Paris, the time period that the collection was inspired by, but is a true testament to what both industries can achieve if they work in harmony.

Historically, fashion and makeup trends have been tied to certain time periods. When designers refer back to certain motifs from different eras, it can add in additional context and give collections a wider range of meaning. The 1930s featured changes in attitude toward design as a whole with the rise of female designers like Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Madame Vionnet.



Images credited to The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Dresses by Eliza Scapperelli and Madeline Vionnet

Contrary to the more masculine, revealing styles of the 1920s, feminine, modest silhouettes were favored. Curves returned to fashion with the creation of the bias cut by Vionnet. This was another way of accentuating curves, by “cutting the fabric 45 degrees against the weave, creating a fluid, body-skimming garment” (Mortion). Exaggerated shoulders, created using padding and many layers of fabric, also appeared frequently.



Image credited to Glamourdaze / Maybeline Advert from 1930’s Magazine

Femininity was pushed to the forefront with makeup as well, inspired by Hollywood starlets like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Joan Crawford. This period was dominated by porcelain skin, thin eyebrows, and red lips. A heavy application of cream rouge was a key aspect of the look, accompanied by colorful eyeshadow swiped across the lids.

Men continued to favor the tuxedo, though older men preferred higher waistlines and well-fitted suits, while younger men preferred looser, baggier trousers and longer jackets and coats. Hats were staples of both daytime and nighttime looks.

Created by legendary fashion designer and controversial public figure John Galliano, this is the brand's first haute couture collection since 2020. Galliano has long been known for infusing theater and drama into his collections, but this is the first collection since the early 2010s that truly manifests his talent for imaginative design and reaffirms there is still marvel to be found within runway shows.

The designer described the show as a "walk through the underbelly of Paris". The looks themselves are inspired by photographs of French prostitutes, barkeeps, and café customers, taken by Hungarian-French photographer Brassaï’ during the 1930s.

Developed over 12 months, each model took on a character corresponding to their look. Depending on their role, characters displayed various degrees of disarray or perfection in their appearances, along with different behaviors that reflected the character’s feelings, such as engaging with their garments and the audience.

Models playing characters that carried themselves more somberly tended to represent underserved individuals within the underground. Representing themes of loss, struggle, and exile, their looks appeared disheveled or loose-fitting, almost as if wearing pieces that were two sizes too large.



There was a distinct lack of depth in color to the looks, which were mostly monochromatic with occasional pops of color or textures, reminiscent of black-and-white photos the collection was inspired by.

The makeup used on these models featured much less color, focusing on pastel yellows, deep purples, blacks, and neutral pinks to create a hollow, sickly appearance. They were bunched over and hobbling, staring sadly and longingly into the eyes of those attending, almost pleading for help.

Models playing characters that carried themselves more confidently tended to represent affluent individuals within the underground. Representing themes of desire, romance, and power, the ensembles ranged from more revealing pieces utilizing sheer fabrics like lace and tulle, to elaborate coat and skirt sets that created whimsical shapes by combining padding, corsets, and prosthetics.



The sheer looks evoked the bias-cut silhouettes of that period to create a more natural, seductive physique. The use of vibrant colors in these looks brought the collection to life, with cornflower blue mixed with shades of lilac and lavender, forest green accented with chartreuse, and pops of red and pink in the shoes and other outfit details.

The makeup was vibrant and colorful, incorporating jewel tones, pastels, and reds. The models were perfectly painted in doll-like fashion, bouncing in their steps as they posed for attendees.

This characterization of the looks was even reflected in Galliano's garment-making process, in which he utilized several new techniques during the collection’s construction to reflect the theatrical intention behind the designs. One technique, dubbed "emotional cutting", imbues garments with what Galliano calls “the unconscious gestures that shape our expressions”. Examples from the collection include “a caban pulled over the head in the rain, lapel raised to cover the face, and a trouser hoicked up to evade a water puddle” (Socha, 2024).

Galliano enlisted Pat McGrath, one of the world's most celebrated professional makeup artists, to create the beauty looks. For this show, McGrath wanted to mimic the porcelain skin of the era but with a modern twist.



Images credited to Pat McGrath / Maison Margiela Couture Spring 2024

To achieve the look, her team first applied foundation mixed with theatrical paint depending on the model's skin tone. The look was then modernized with soft washes of color across the eyes, and in order to create the time period’s doll-like appearance, cream blush was applied to the center of the cheeks. The eyebrows of the models were bleached, with some replaced by pencil-thin arches. The look was finished with a clear gloss after the models' lips were painted shades of black or red.

The models' faces were then airbrushed with a mixture of products over the makeup, including peel-off face masks from Freeman Beauty and Que Bella diluted with water. Every model received seven to eight layers of the mask mixture, which were blow-dried between each layer. Despite being time-consuming, it achieved the ethereal “glass skin” look seen throughout the collection without tampering with the makeup underneath.

With this show, John Galliano and Pat McGrath captured the essence of Parisian nights of the past and brought them into the modern era, making it a “viral” sensation seen and loved by millions.


Every detail of this collection invited viewers on a journey through the hidden corners of Paris, where beauty and fashion converged with performance to tell the captivating tales of the underground.

This kind of global attention for a runway show is rare. Despite being his most popular show in recent years, his ability to experiment and try new things has always been one of his strengths, and rekindling the concept of performance on the runway has inspired renewed enthusiasm in the industry. In the last two decades, true runway shows have become a "lost art," making once exclusive and intimate storytelling presentations of designer collections almost unrecognizable.

Despite his troubled past and strained relationship with the industry, this show is a worthy contribution to his legacy and ongoing impact within fashion. The ability to design artful, experimental collections while developing a compelling story is something that many modern-day designers lack, which is why this collection is both a tribute to fashion shows of the past and a vision for what fashion shows could become in the future. The show will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the beauty and fashion industries, demonstrating the boundlessness of creativity and magic that still exists despite ongoing challenges within both industries.





About Nina


Born and raised just outside of New York City, Nina has always been captivated by the worlds of fashion and beauty. As a recent graduate of Arizona State University, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Digital and Integrated Marketing Communications and a minor in Fashion. Her inquisitiveness led her to work in several fields across both industries, including social media, editorial, digital marketing, public relations, and event planning. Having always been a passionate writer and consumer of content, she enjoys covering fashion, beauty, popular culture, and all forms of media.


Sources:

https://wwd.com/runway/spring-couture-2024/paris/maison-martin-margiela/review/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgMJq67ZOwE

https://www.cnn.com/2024/02/02/style/pat-mcgrath-maison-margiela-makeup/index.html

https://www.patmcgrath.com/blogs/news/maison-margiela-artisanal-collection-2024

https://www.anothermag.com/fashion-beauty/15383/john-galliano-maison-margiela-ss24-artisanal-show-review-couture

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https://wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/maison-margiela-couture-galliano-encore-1236220530/

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https://bythebodkin.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/corseting-the-1930s-figure/

https://sabeautybox.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/the-history-of-makeup-the-1930s/

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